Stop Giving Losers Trophies (Especially If They're Kids)

Illustration for article titled Stop Giving Losers Trophies (Especially If Theyre Kids)

In a world where everyone gets a "you tried" ribbon just for showing up, some brave Americans are standing up and saying "You know what? No. Your whiny baby doesn't deserve a prize if they lost" in a completely anonymous poll.


Unsurprisingly, these views correspond with political beliefs. Reason reports that in a recent telephone survey, 57% of 1000 adults surveyed (this generalizes it to all Americans) said that children who play on a sports team but did not win should get absolutely nothing for their participation. Not a trophy, not a trip to Pizza Hut, not even a one dollar Red Box rental to make them feel better. (I made that last part up because I know kids love Pizza Hut from the commercials that ran before my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles home video cassette.) And, according to Reason, when you break down these responses by age, income and political party, it gets even more interesting.

The full results are here, but what's fascinating (and probably unsurprising) is that those people who endorsed only winners getting trophies were also more likely to endorse capitalism, favor small government and be older. As people get older, apparently, they do not mellow, because 51 percent of those aged between 18 and 24 say "whatever, give that fucking kid a cheap plastic baseball looking thing, why not?" while only 29 percent of seniors endorse rewarding everyone. Because you should be able to pull yourself up by your bootstraps and get over things. My grandma is a senior (she is like 83-112, I can't tell) and every time I would come home crying from school about something or other, she would just tell me that A) Anne Frank had it worse than me and B) During World War II someone stole a bag of oranges from her while she was on the train to Moscow, so maybe I should just suck it up and go watch cartoons or something until it was time to go to bed without dinner. (Ok, we always had dinner.)


Depending on your stance on only winners getting trophies (Anyone have a Ship On a Stick from Carnival? I earned that!), the stats on race and gender might either disappoint you or buoy you for the rest of the day. According to Reason, men and women aren't too far apart (44 percent of women and 35 percent of men say all kids should get a trophy), but 63 percent of caucasians say only the winners should get trophies while 56 percent African-Americans and Hispanics say all kids deserve some reward, which is a good starting point for discussion in a conversation about privilege.

Of course, this poll is not perfect and 1,000 is a large number for research, but not a huge one when it comes to generalizing to an entire population. It would also be interesting if the next iteration of this poll had a question about why people think/don't think that everyone deserves a trophy. I understand that could get into the realm of qualitative research, but it could work even if there were four choices and the option to answer "other."

It's a difficult question, though, isn't it? When I read the poll results I immediately wanted to agree that everyone deserves some kind of reward for participation, but then I had second thoughts. What if some kids are just better than others at certain things? What if not everyone deserves a trophy for everything they try? Isn't the experience of losing/failing/recognizing that something might not be for you an important one to learn at a young age so as to improve coping skills later in life? Isn't that something parents can handle at home after the game?

Thee months ago, I was at Safeway stocking up on Ginger Ale when the woman behind me dropped three bottles of wine, two heart-shaped boxes of chocolate and one package of Toblerone on the conveyor belt.


"It's not all for me," she said when we made eye contact. "My daughter just lost a soccer tournament. The chocolate's for her. I'll be drinking the wine while she mopes and we watch whatever I get out of the Red Box." Chocolate and movies? That's better than any trophy.

Image via Shutterstock

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I played competitive sports as a kid. I also competed in musical and performance competitions, spelling bees, and was a force to be reckoned with on the debate team.

I won, and I lost. I loved the thrill of competition, but crashed hard sometimes with disappointment. I think those experiences made me stronger, more able to deal with bad experiences, and more willing to push my limits.

I also had coaches and teachers who reinforced positive lessons and reminded me not to take things too seriously. My mom refocused me when I needed it, reminding me that my English paper was more important than my hockey practice.

It shouldn't be about making every kid a winner, but making sure that every kid takes something away from the experience that is positive in the long run. I also hope that parents can realize that not every kid is going to be competitive by nature, and some will be much better off in creative, lower key environments.